By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer
Heavy equipment will move into two Tahlequah parks Monday as part of a larger stream-bank restoration project within the Illinois River watershed.
Work will begin next week in Felts and Kaufman parks along Town Branch Creek. Two other projects will follow at Sequoyah Park and at the city’s history trail head near the Northeastern State University campus.
Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols said those projects will go a long way toward stabilizing the creek banks eroded by floods during the spring of 2011.
“Without this there was the potential to lose the aesthetic qualities of these parks,” Nichols said. “There was also a real danger of losing parking lots and park equipment.”
The Town Branch Creek projects in Tahlequah are four of 11 similar projects planned this summer in Adair and Cherokee counties. The $2 million project, overseen by Oklahoma State University’s Department of Biosystems and Agriculture Engineering, is being funded by the federal stimulus package passed in 2008.
Jeri Fleming, project manager, said federal dollars were funneled through the Oklahoma Water Resources Board’s clean water state revolving fund to the Oklahoma Conservation Commission. Project design and construction is being handled by Stantec Consulting Services and North State Environmental.
The goal of the project, which has included work near Stillwater and within the Eucha-Spavinaw watershed, is to improve water quality and prevent stream-bank erosion. Fleming said no riprap or concrete will be used to stabilize the stream banks — all of it will be “natural restoration.”
Natural stream restoration is the process of restoring a stream to a state that provides the essential functions fulfilled before degradation occurred.
Riparian areas around streams when left in a natural state, Fleming said, help maintain water quality and provide habitat for aquatic and terrestrial wildlife. These functions cease to exist when there is any degradation to the riparian areas.
In addition to the Tahlequah parks, Fleming said stream restoration projects are planned along Barren Fork and Tyner creeks, public access areas along the upper Illinois River, and on private agricultural land.
In addition to the restoration projects, Fleming said tours of sites completed and in progress will be available July 12 to the general public. A project design seminar is scheduled July 24. OSU personnel will be on hand to answer questions from anybody who visits a project that is in the works.
Nichols said the Town Branch Creek projects are critical not only for the protection of the parks’ infrastructure, it is vital to protecting water quality as well.
“Town Branch runs directly into the Illinois River, which creates a regulatory burden on the city,” Nichols said. “We have to treat this stream with kid gloves.”
Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stream restoration projects